It’s an almost-huge night for Republican politics, with a slate of primaries scheduled across the country. Most of the media’s attention will be on the Bluegrass State, where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is squaring off with Tea Party insurgent Matt Bevin. But as Lucy Schouten already reported, McConnell is widely expected to win by a large margin. Most of the other races are equally noncompetitive but there’s still potential for a surprise or two. Here’s what we’re following at American Spectator Decision 2014 World News Headquarters™ in Washington.
Georgian Silver Medals
Senator Saxby Chambliss is retiring and no fewer than five Republicans are vying to take his place. Normally packed contests like these consist of a single frontrunner and a pack of squabbling single-digit Lilliputians, but Georgia’s primary is brimming with talent, including three congressmen (Jack Kingston, Paul Broun, and Phil Gingrey), the former head of Susan G. Komen (Karen Handel), and a successful businessman (David Perdue). Perdue will net the most votes tonight, but won’t clear the 50 percent hurdle, meaning there will be a two-candidate run-off in June. The question is whether Perdue will face Kingston or Handel. Handel is generally considered to be more fiscally conservative and was endorsed by Sarah Palin, but Kingston is a known quantity in the state. Who will take second tonight? And can he or she collect enough support from the other failed candidates to beat Perdue in the run-off?
The rap on Republicans Monica Wehby and Jason Conger is that Wehby is the establishment choice while Conger is the conservative challenger. But the lines here are more than a little blurred. Conger voted for Cover Oregon, the state’s Obamacare exchange, now regarded as the Hindenburg of computerized health insurance. Wehby has been smacking Conger upside the head over Obamacare for months, but Conger is retaliating with money from an unlikely source: pro-life activists, who hate Wehby’s pro-choice stance. Meanwhile Democrats, true to form, have been gleefully interviewing Wehby’s ex-boyfriends and managed to dredge up two stalking accusation against her. (Got to love that rigorous GOP vetting process!) Oregonians have likely had their fair share of socially liberal Republicans with sideshow private lives (see: Packwood, Bob). Will social issues matter in this deep-blue state?
For whatever reason, the establishment has decided that Tea Partier Bryan Smith’s challenge to Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson means nuclear war. The state’s Second Congressional District, deeply Republican and full of gentle people, is currently being firebombed by a blistering GOP hellfire campaign. (They lost the presidency but they’re not losing southeastern Idaho, dammit!) This is the most expensive congressional race in the country, with $3 million spent so far and $2.2 million of it landing in Simpson’s coffers, thanks to the Chamber of Commerce and Steve LaTourette, one of John Boehner’s lieutenants and a generally cantankerous individual. Simpson is expected to win thanks to the establishment blitz. But can Smith still put up solid numbers?
Speaking of the establishment, they’re likely to crown themselves victorious tonight, especially if Broun and Gingrey fade in Georgia, and they’re able to inflict Armageddon on Smith in Idaho. This won’t be entirely accurate. There’s no question Gingrey and Broun dragged the Georgia race to the right, forcing their rivals to compete in an I’m-the-real-conservative contest. And in Kentucky, it can be argued that Tea Partier Rand Paul acted as kingmaker and sealed the deal for Mitch McConnell. But still, expect Karl Rove to be smirking on Fox News this evening. What does that mean for the Tea Party? And could this be a year when the establishment and Tea Party converge to a certain extent, agreeing on a slate of generally conservative, though not ideal, candidates?